Towards Zero (Agatha Christie and Gerald Verner)

A murder mystery set in a clifftop house in three acts

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Cast size: 11


Towards Zero (Agatha Christie and Gerald Verner)
When a house party gathers at Gull's Point, the seaside home of Lady Tressilian, Neville Strange finds himself caught between his old wife Audrey and his new flame Kay. A nail-biting thriller, the play probes the psychology of jealousy in the shadow of a savage and brutal murder. A carefully unpeeled investigation before our eyes brings the story to a pointed ending.

Play information

The action of the play takes place in the drawing room at Gull's Point, Lady Tressilian's house, Saltcreek, Cornwall.
Running time
2 hours 30 minutes

Character list

  • Number of male characters: 7
  • Number of female characters: 4
  • Thomas Royde
  • Kay Strange
  • Mary Aldin
  • Mathew Treves
  • Nevile Strange
  • Lady Tressilian
  • Audrey Strange
  • Ted Latimer
  • Superintendent Battle
  • Inspector Leach
  • P.C. Benson

Performing this play

More about this play

The play premièred in the West End at the St. James's Theatre in September, 1956 produced by Peter Saunders, producer of The Mousetrap.
A double parlour game – before guessing the killer's name, we are invited to guess who is going to be killed.
Kenneth Tynan, The Observer

Additional information

Arguably the best known adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, Towards Zero, was that of prolific writer, Gerald Verner, in 1956. However, a few years ago, it was discovered that Agatha Christie had in fact written her own stage adaptation of the novel which was commissioned by the Shuberts in 1944 and we present both plays as part of The Collection.

Both versions of the text follow a similar narrative pattern. The events of both plays explore how the characters, through their various interactions move towards a ‘zero hour’ of murder. Both explore the idea that murder shouldn’t be the beginning of a story but the end.

However, there are some important distinctions between the texts. Christie’s adaptation is a three-act, five-scene drama set over eight days with thirteen actors whilst Verner’s version is again three acts but with six scenes set over seven days involving eleven actors. Moreover, the setting is different; Christie’s is set open air on the terrace of Lady Tressilian’s house whereas Verner’s takes a more familiar path and is set in the drawing room.

Both plays contain a familiar core group of characters however there are some important roles that differ. Angus McWhirter is perhaps the most important character missing from Verner’s text but makes a very significant contribution to Christie’s original. His interactions with Audrey are perhaps the most profound of the play – allowing Christie to explore thematically the notions of mortality, suicide, depression and even redemption. In place of McWhirter, Verner employs the shrewd and insightful Mathew Treves, a lawyer who is now house guest and confidant to Lady Tressilian. Verner also uses the well-known and notable Superintendent Battle to lead the murder investigation.

By all accounts Christie’s adaptation is a more ambitious and dramatic piece of writing however Verner’s play is structurally strong and provides a faithful and well realised adaptation of Christie’s original novel.